Having scored shorts, feature films, video games, and written music for the concert stage, Austin Wintory is well-schooled in writing music that fits a film's needs and a director's vision, and his latest projects include music for the Jordanian film Captain Abu Raed (2007), and the horror film Grace (2009).

There are no common elements between the scores, and in our conversation, Wintory describes his determination to constantly learn and develop his skills, and he shares thoughts on a recent and highly unusual project – a concert piece inspired by Joss Whedon's cult TV series, Angel.



Captain Abu Raed posterGrace (2009) poster



Mark R. Hasan: You have a varied music background. How did you get involved in film composition?

Austin Wintory: My sort of unhealthy obsession with this crazy career that I have with fim music and video game music went back to when I was ten years old, and I discovered the music of Jerry Goldsmith, courtesy of my childhood piano teacher.


MRH: When you were in film school, you scored a great deal of short films, and I wonder if all those shorts provided a great training ground for different formats, genres, characters, and different stories?

AW: Yeah, all of the above. In two years at NYU I did thirty student films – not only at NYU but at other schools around Manhattan, like the Columbia School of Visual Arts, etc. - and indie things. The very first job that I had came from an out-of-work actor who was frustrated that he wasn't getting more jobs, so he decided to take the bull by the horns and make his own movie that would feature him. That was my first true professional job shortly after moving to New York. Then at USC, the same, but lots more of it - another sixty or seventy student films and things like that at the AFI and UCLA.

The most significant training, though... was learning and meeting all these different types of directors and filmmakers, and the different personality types that directors tend towards... What I came to realize most important for me, and what I was passionate about, was the collaborative experience more than the musical end result... Nothing trains you better for that than student films, because [students] don't really have any idea of what they're doing, and so they say things that put you through hell without meaning to; they're completely honest intentions, and you learn so much about the art of collaboration, and learning to take a deep breath, and take a step back.


MRH: I guess that's probably one of the hardest professional skills to acquire, because film is a collaborative medium, and you're dealing with a lot of different types of personalities; sometimes you get challenging egos, and sometimes you get people who speak the same musical language because they come from a musical background. You learn how to meet the demands of a filmmaker and communicate, too.

AW: It's not like collaborating with structural engineers to build a bridge where there are very objective rules governing it like physics. In film, there's some of that, but it's largely subjective, and that's the one huge X factor that throws everything into chaos and craziness, but I sort of love that.


MRH: It's funny that you mentioned that you scored over thirty films within a two-year period, because that's a huge amount-

AW: So many of them were so tiny that I did them in an afternoon.


MRH: Well, I wonder if that diversity is what helps you with your current work, because you write for the concert stage, video games, and other mediums which are a lot to juggle, whereas some people stick with just a handful of genres or mediums, and maybe later in their careers they move towards something else.

AW: I'm a big fan of the notion to kind of reinvent yourself every single time you put pen to paper, and my hero of heroes was Jerry Goldsmith who was the quintessential composer for doing that. Each film was a whole new project for Goldsmith, and yet there exists also [distinct] periods of his work: his experimental period of the sixties and then into the seventies; the very big orchestral scores of the eighties; and in the nineties [the] relaxing of the experimental techniques, but otherwise big orchestral scores that are totally different in feel and sound from the eighties.

You listen to Planet of the Apes and compare that to Star Trek: Nemesis, which was basically the last score he wrote, and there's almost forty years of evolution between the two, and yet they're instantly him... Goldsmith was in the absolute sense a true artist, and since I know I'm no way nearly as brilliant as he was, I just force myself to work in all these different areas in the hope that that's kind of the avenue towards expanding and flowing.

Go to Page 2 ____On to Page 2
Related Links___Exclusive Interviews & Profiles___Site FAQ
Back to Top of Page __ Back to MAIN INDEX (KQEK Home)
Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author.